Polluto #2

Reviewed by Jim Steel This special apocalypse (and garden furniture) themed edition of the magazine is just packed with bad ideas. You remember Highlander, don't you? The ridiculously over-the-top films and the even worse television series? It was a terrible idea, wasn't it? Well, Steve Redwood uses that idea as the basis of The Burden of Sin.

The hero of his story is Vasily Foplamov, a quiet, overlooked immortal who is quite content to enjoy the benefits of immortality. Unfortunately McLoud, the hero of the films but here portrayed as a humourless Calvinist psycho, will not rest until he has destroyed him (may I just add that it was also a bad idea to get a Scotsman to review this). Foplamov was able to remain unnoticed as long as there were other mortals, and even when it is only himself and McLoud who remain, he manages to stay hidden for decades. He knows, though, he cannot stay hidden forever. If McLoud has a weakness, it is his staunch Calvinist beliefs. John Knox is his hero, and also, Foplamov discovers, his undoing. If the original Highlander series had half the wit and verve of Redwood’s story, then they would be cinematic classics instead of mere camp curiosities.

Keeping on the Celtic theme, Welsh Dadaist genius Rhys Hughes’ bad idea was to write a story about prog rock. Cracking Nuts With Jan Hammer has an obscure musician serving time in Hell, where the fate of prog musos is to prepare buffet meals for other musicians forever. The reader just rolls with the story, spotting the fates of the various famous folks, when suddenly a plot whizzes through the story at right angles to the narrative trajectory. Prog rock did specialise in sudden time signature and key changes, so it seems apt that a story packed with its perpetrators should do so too. On a personal note, may I just say how glad I was to find that Peter Hammill is allowed out of Hell once a year, even if only for an hour.

Zombies are the new vampires. This, of course, makes writing a story about them a very bad idea indeed. A couple of different approaches to the walking dead are found in here. Adam Lowe’s scientist protagonist in Zombie Love Song has locked himself in a lab with the zombie corpse of his beloved. She has given him a week to come up with a cure, otherwise she will consume him. One gets the impression that she is merely humouring him in this lyrical evocation of a changing world. MP Johnson’s Ahlana Demona is much lighter in tone and pulpier in style, but none the worse for that. Peter is a social worker who is a zombie rights activist. He ends up embroiled with the beautiful Ahlana, who is a monster hunter on the trail of an evil werewolf. Ahlana also happens to be a pre-op transsexual, which adds spice and confusion to Peter’s feelings for her.

Michael R. Colangelo’s (only just) post-apocalyptic Love And Gasoline has two brothers cruising around in a car wondering what to do next. They’ve made themselves a pretty gruesome weapon that fires lawn darts, but that’ll only keep them safe for so long. Then sexual tension arrives with another young survivor. Nothing can remain static for long.

The above stories are probably the highlights for me, but there are several others that can be ranked highly as well. Three short Dave Migman stories are scattered through the pages, and there’s also a weird Jeff VanderMeer interview that’s worth a look. Deb Hoag’s Meatloaf Of The Apocalypse is structurally all over the shop, but intrigues and entertains. Chet Gottfriend’s Wagnerian bonkfest The Ragnarok Seduction is wonderfully loopy. Mike Philbin’s vegetable apocalypse aims for transgression but misses and is one of the few failures, and some of the shorter pieces fail to engage, but the overall success rate is high.

It’s also a very handsome looking magazine. There are full colour plates of artwork in the middle that just reek of class, even if the initial typeface used for the story titles doesn’t look as clean as it should. It’s a limited numbered edition of 500, so best probably not to hang around too long if you want to own one. The editorial also explains where the magazine’s title comes from. It’s a great name from a bad idea.

Polluto, edited by Adam Lowe. Dog Horn Publishing, trade paperback, 144pp, £8 or £30/4, hardback £24.99, PDF £5.00 (free CD with every print purchase). For full details refer to website: www.polluto.com

This review originally appeared on 19 July 2008, on Whispers of Wickedness. Reproduced here with permission.